Drive for Detroit: Week 4 Preview
September 14, 2017
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This is the time of year, every year, when we begin to notice the start of separation among the fast starters and truly elite teams in Michigan high school football.
There are 122 teams (of 617 total) without a loss as the regular season creeps toward the midway point. And that number will go down by at least a few this weekend as a number of league races also take a turn with undefeated contenders facing off.
This week’s Drive for Detroit preview powered by MI Student Aid features three of those matchups and mentions a half-dozen more. Remember to stay with us Friday night and into Saturday for scores as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center, and click on teams off that page for updated standings and playoff points. MHSAA.tv will broadcast nine games across both peninsulas this weekend – click here for the schedule. All games below will be played Friday.
Bay & Thumb
Linden (3-0) at Fenton (3-0)
Fenton has claimed outright Flint Metro League titles by defeating Linden in the regular-season finale the last three seasons – wins by the Eagles in 2014 and 2016 would’ve meant a shared championship – but this fall the meeting comes in the heart of the league schedule. Linden has handed lone losses this season to both Flushing and Holly, and Fenton did the same to Ortonville Brandon – giving this the feeling of a few-weeks-early championship game again.
Others that caught my eye: Lake Fenton (2-1) at Goodrich (3-0), Marysville (2-1) at Marine City (3-0), Freeland (3-0) at Saginaw Swan Valley (2-1), Houghton Lake (2-1) at Beaverton (3-0).
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (3-0) at Dearborn Divine Child (3-0)
Cranbrook Kingswood has experienced an upswing in football since longtime Detroit Country Day coach Joe D’Angelo took over in 2013. Coming off three straight playoff seasons, the Cranes have opened by outscoring their first three opponents by a combined 114-7 – and two of those teams also made the playoffs last fall. Divine Child has been similarly strong against a similar group of teams and has Big Ten-committed prospects on both sides of the ball (QB/S Theo Day – Michigan State, DE/TE Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan) as it continues to build of last season’s Division 3 Semifinal run.
Others that caught my eye: Warren Mott (3-0) at Macomb Dakota (2-1), Detroit Central (2-1) at Detroit Renaissance (3-0), Clarkston (3-0) at West Bloomfield (1-2), Waterford Mott (2-1) at Walled Lake Western (3-0).
Grand Ledge (2-1) at Lansing Sexton (3-0)
Grand Ledge and DeWitt were considered the unquestioned elite in the Lansing area heading into this season. Then the Panthers downed the Comets 14-7 in Week 2 to rise to the top of the list. But Sexton is building a solid argument as well giving up only 21 points so far and after handing Portland its first regular-season loss since 2014. Another victory tonight would put the Big Reds firmly in the discussion; the winner regardless will take a significant step toward the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title.
Others that caught my eye: Vermontville Maple Valley (3-0) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (3-0), Lansing Catholic (3-0) at Williamston (2-1), Perry (2-1) at Olivet (3-0), Fulton (2-1) at Fowler (2-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Lincoln Alcona (3-0) at AuGres-Sims (3-0)
It’s hard to remember that 11-year span at the start of this century when Alcona didn’t make the playoffs once; the Tigers have qualified four of the last five seasons and are well on their way again with two wins this fall over playoff teams from a year ago. AuGres-Sims started what it hopes is a similar bounce-back going 7-3 last year despite falling to Alcona 58-20. If like opponents mean anything – they have two so far in 2017 – tonight’s game should be a lot closer than that last meeting and could end up deciding the North Star League title.
Others that caught my eye: Whittemore-Prescott (2-1) at Gaylord St. Mary (3-0), Evart (2-1) at McBain (2-1), Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-1) at Charlevoix (1-2), Kalkaska (3-0) at Elk Rapids (2-1).
Southeast & Border
Ypsilanti Community (2-1) at Adrian (2-1)
Once an annual power, we didn’t talk about Adrian for a few seasons until the Maples ended a string of four sub-.500 finishes by winning a District title last fall. They fell in an odd one, 11-7, last weekend after the power went out Friday and they had to resume Sunday morning. Ypsilanti Community also fell last week, to Pinckney, but has equaled last season’s win total and shut out Tecumseh on opening night.
Others that caught my eye: Dundee (2-1) at Hudson (3-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-1) at Ida (3-0), Chelsea (2-1) at Tecumseh (2-1), Addison (3-0) at Napoleon (2-1)
Stevensville Lakeshore (3-0) at St. Joseph (3-0)
Last week Lakeshore/Portage Central was the big game in the southwest part of the state, and following a 24-7 win the Lancers are headlining again as they face their other annual main competition in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West. Lakeshore has beaten St. Joseph in four straight. But the Bears have been tough defensively and can rely on running back Ryan Haynes, who has piled up more than 400 yards on the ground.
Others that caught my eye: Union City (3-0) at Quincy (3-0), Dowagiac (2-1) at Edwardsburg (3-0), Traverse City Central (2-1) at Portage Central (2-1), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (3-0) at Parchment (2-1).
Ishpeming Westwood (3-0) at Gladstone (3-0)
Like Lakeshore above, Westwood finds itself in the top spot for as second straight week after downing previously undefeated L’Anse 38-10 to eclipse its win total from a year ago. The Patriots also handed Munising its lone loss this season, but the toughest competition so far should come from Gladstone – which switched to the Mid-Peninsula Conference this season after battling the biggest in the U.P. in the Great Northern Conference for more than two decades. Last week’s 43-0 win over Negaunee gave the Braves as many wins as they had all of last season and as many as they’ve had in any season since 2010.
Others that caught my eye: Marquette (1-2) at Escanaba (2-1), Munising (2-1) at Newberry (2-1), Gwinn (2-1) at Norway (3-0), Hancock (3-0) at L'Anse (2-1).
Muskegon (3-0) at Byron Center (3-0)
The Grand Rapids and Muskegon areas are loaded with outstanding matchups this weekend – see the others mentioned below – but this gets top billing because of Byron Center’s opportunity. Muskegon is a state power and came within minutes of winning the Division 3 title last year. But the Bulldogs finished 10-2 – earning their most wins since 2000 – with both losses to the Big Reds, in Week 4 and again in a Division 3 Regional Final.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Christian (3-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (3-0), Zeeland East (3-0) at Holland (3-0), Whitehall (2-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (3-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (3-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (3-0).
Bellevue (3-0) at Portland St. Patrick (3-0)
The Broncos moved into 8-player this season coming off two straight 3-5 finishes and one win in 2014. So far, it’s a perfect fit. Bellevue’s start has been nearly perfect defensively – it’s outscored its first three opponents by a combined 146-6. St. Patrick has a lot more experience in the 8-player format – the Shamrocks twice have come within a win or two of the MHSAA championship game since making the move in 2012. They’re coming off a 38-22 win over rival Webberville, which Bellevue beat 40-6 on opening night.
Others that caught my eye: Ontonagon (2-0) at Rapid River (3-0), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (2-1) at Onekama (3-0), Deckerville (3-0) at Kingston (2-1), New Haven Merritt (2-1) at Bay City All Saints (2-1).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Grand Ledge quarterback Nolan Bird targets a receiver during his team’s 14-7 loss to DeWitt in Week 2. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)